Into the Wild taught us that walking away from regular society and living in the wilderness can be a majestic experience, albeit dangerous. Maybe you want to live in the woods forever, or maybe you want to camp indefinitely, but either way you want to do it legally. There are many factors to consider, such as weather conditions, park rangers, hikers, private property, animals, food supply, surveillance cameras, and more.
There are four key components to living in the forest without getting caught: planning, preparation, portability, and stealth. You must research multiple safe locations to camp out beforehand, prepare your belongings, make sure your items are easily portable, and try not to stay in the same spot for too long.
In this article, we will dive deeper into these four components and how you can optimize your stealth camping adventure.
Planning Your Campsite Cocations
Research, research, research. What’s worse than getting to a campsite and realizing you have no water sources nearby? Realizing you’re on the private property of a gun owner. When stealth camping, you’ll want multiple backup campsite locations available to you. Research and plan for as many alternative campsites as possible. That way, if you need to move locations for any reason, you have the option. You should also visit these campsites beforehand to vet them out before you embark on your journey. Here are some factors to research when choosing your campsite locations:
- Is it private property, public property or a National Forest?
- Is it legal to camp there?
- Does the campsite have a hunting season?
- What are the weather conditions at all times of the year?
- Where are the closest water sources?
- Do floods ever occur in the area?
- What wildlife inhabit the area?
- Do hikers frequently cross over the area?
- Do you know how to get back to civilization in case of an emergency?
- Are there any poisonous wildlife or plants to be aware of?
Preparing Your Belongings
Preparation is the next step to successfully living in the woods without getting caught. Before you can prepare your belongings, you need to have your campsites vetted. You probably wouldn’t bring your snow boots to Death Valley. Thus, you’ll need to prepare a list of the essential items to bring based on the environments you chose. Here is a general list of the most essential items for living off the grid:
- Weapons: knife, hatchet, gun
- Tools: Saw, Rope, Axe, Ferro rod
- Food and water supplies: water cantina, water filter, fishing tools (net, rod, line), 2 qt pot
- Clothing and shoes (consider your weather conditions)
- Sleeping supplies: portable tent, sleeping bag, extra blanket
- Back up supply of food: canned and/or dried goods (this should be enough to keep you safe for the first few months while you adjust)
- Large backpack and/or transportable bag to pack up and carry everything to your next site
- Backup safety items: whistle, flashlight, satellite phone
- Things to keep you from getting bored: books (Into the Wild perhaps?), small games, drawing material
An enormous part of not getting caught is being able to move from campsite to campsite. You may need to move for a plethora of reasons. You may need to vacate because a new family of bears has moved in. Or maybe you detect some human life in the area and feel that your secret site has been compromised. Some National Parks even monitor squatters and require people to move after a certain amount of time. Whatever the reason, you will need to move around from time to time. It begs the question: what can you do to be portable?
- Pack light. Bring only the essentials.
- Of those essentials, make sure nothing weighs too much.
- Buy a portable tent that’s easily foldable and lightweight.
- Always have an evacuation plan to move to the next campsite.
- Don’t get attached to one campsite. Set up camp knowing you may leave in a day.
- Consider getting a stealth camping van. It’s not the most off-the-grid way to go, but this may help you move from campsite to campsite easier.
Finally, the most important component to not getting caught while living in the forest: stealth. Humans have an innate ability to use instinct to be sneaky. Engage your human spirit and embrace your instincts to make sure you are never caught while camping. The good news is that even if you are caught, simply pretend as if you are leaving and go to your next planned campsite. Nonetheless, here are some stealthy tips for you to consider:
- Move your campsite frequently.
- Cover your tracks when going towards your campsite.
- Check for surveillance cameras in the trees.
- Don’t choose campsites that are too close to hiking trails or roads.
- Wear camouflage clothing.
- Don’t start a fire if you suspect people are nearby.
- If you’re bringing a flashlight, don’t use it at night.
- Buy a tent the same color as the environment. A natural shade of green is usually best.
- When arriving at a new campsite, wait a few hours before setting up camp.
- Always know your way out of the campsite in case of an urgent evacuation need.
- An obvious, but important one: be quiet.
Whatever your motivation to live in the wilderness may be, say it with me: Plan, Prep, Be Portable, Be Stealthy. And above all else, be safe!
These four key components (Plan, Prep, Be Portable, Be Stealthy) are key to not getting caught while living or camping in the woods. If you follow these carefully, you should be human-free for many months to come. And who doesn’t want that?
In the words of Christopher McCandless from Into the Wild: “The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”